Marathon Training: Staying Injury Free

When training for the WDW Marathon last fall I ramped up quickly and had three months of great running until December rolled around and my body gave out. I went from hip problems, to calf problems, to a knee problem that would only let me log about 10 miles before it started shooting in pain. Thus, my only two long runs topped out at 16 and 17 miles and made running the marathon incredibly hard. My goal this time around is to stay injury free so I can finish all of my runs and actually run the marathon properly trained. So here's how I hope to do it.

Staying Injury Free During Marathon Training

Proper Fitting Shoes & Insoles

This spring I went to RoadRunner Sports to be properly fitted for shoes and insoles. In the five years I've been running I've never actually gone in and been fitted - I just tend to pick the shoe based on what I think I need and how fun the colors are. Yep, a recipe for disaster. I had been running in super minimal shoes training for the last marathon thinking minimal would be better than fully supported shoes. Oh, was I wrong.

RoadRunner Sports sets you up on a treadmill and has you run barefoot for just about a minute so they can record how your feet land and if and how you pronate. I thought I overpronated a lot, but it was only slightly. Then they have you stand on a mat that measures how high or low your arches are. My arches are so high they didn't even register on the mat - all we saw was the ball of my foot and toes and my heel. So, they put me in a moderate stabilization shoe, but they also made me custom insoles for my super high arches. Everything is done in the store, and they had me stand on insoles on a warming device that molded them to my feet for a perfect fit.

I've been running in my shoes and insoles since the spring and guess what? No hip or calf pain! My initial injuries were immediately eliminated from properly fitting shoes and insoles.

Proper Fitting Shoes & Insoles

Stretching

After. Every. Run. PERIOD. I wasn't the best at stretching last year during training, but I wasn't the worst as well. There is nothing more difficult than taking at least 15 minutes to stretch after a long run when all you want to do is shower and eat. I've been making this more tolerable by stretching a few minutes after my run, then a few more after my shower, and a long sustained stretch after I eat. I usually also need to do some stretching at the end of the day as well. I'm forcing myself to do it this time around and I know it will pay off in the end.

Luckily, I have a few devices that can help me keep on track.

The first is the awesome app, Yoga For Runners, which has a few guided sequences to take you through a stretching routine either before or after your run. I've been using this app for almost five years now and its my go to help for stretching. I find that having a guided app helps me hold the stretches long enough to help my muscles and prompts me to keep going when I get tired.

Capital Yoga and Tania Frechette, the makers of Yoga for Runners, also have another app called Runners Yoga. There are two more guided sequences in this app that I also like to use - one is called Yoga For Strength, and the other is a 30 minuted guided Hip Opening Sequence. Both are fantastic and I highly recommend spending $1.99 / app to help you get your stretches in!

Foam Rolling

At least twice a day. And after. Every. Run. PERIOD.

Let me say that I have a deep love for my foam roller. You know when you get that soreness and tightness in your muscles that stretching just can't help? Enter the foam roller. Its like giving yourself a deep tissue massage. You can roll your muscles out on your foam roller or just press down on a spot that hurts. From your hips to your quads to your calfs to your back, this high density foam roller is the answer to all my problems. Well, not all of them, but it feels like it is after a good rolling session! Check out these videos from Runner's World that can show you how to properly roll after your runs.

Compression Sleeves & Ice Wraps

I've been running in Zensah Compression Sleeves since I started running. I wear them out on every run I do over four miles and I put them on a lot of times after a run for recovery. These sleeves help support blood circulation for performance and recovery, they have full calf support, and they are breathable. (If you want to read about how I've dealt with shin splints by using compression sleeves and other methods click here!)

I started icing my injured knee after all my runs last year and I'm continuing to do it this year. It helps with any extra inflammation that may have flared up during a long hilly run. I found this ice wrap works really well - I can strap it on and still move around so I'm not stuck on the couch for a while.

Cross Training

So you're already running four to five times a week, and now you're supposed to swim, cycle, or do yoga as well? Are you nuts?! Well, yes, I am running a marathon so that already qualifies me as crazy. I've jumped on the Cross Training regime this time around and I'm super happy about it. 

This fall I'm taking a yoga class on Tuesdays and swimming on Tuesdays and Fridays. I've also been doing short workouts from the Nike+ Training Club, concentrating more on core work and hip strengthening, something that will help me avoid knee injuries. It sounds like a lot, but I've already noticed its been helping me recover from long runs or tough speed work sessions. My goal for all of this isn't to beat my marathon time or run at a faster pace, my goal is to remain injury free. I want to be able to get all my long runs in this time around so I can actually run the WDW Marathon fully trained.

Nutrition & Rest

Just like having a good training plan will help me successfully run this marathon, good nutrition will help me fuel and recover for those long days ahead. Gone are the days of only eating pasta and bread the night before a long run to carb up. I've learned over the past few years that I need good nutrition balanced with vitamins, carbs, and protein. My body works better on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans. You can read all about how to train and run a marathon on a vegan diet by going here:

Lastly, when I'm training so hard sometimes its REALLY HARD to take a day off. I know I want it, I know I need it, but when you're in a groove and the momentum is going its really hard to stop and spend a day resting. I'm always amazed at how good I feel the day after a rest day. So treat yourself to a rest day at least once a week and be good to your body. You're in for the long haul training for a marathon and just like the race, the training is an endurance event which you have to pace for as well.

Good luck and happy running!